Trucker Turmoil: Rafael Grampa on Mesmo Delivery

Rafael Grampa on Mesmo Delivery

Mesmo Delivery, page 4

Brazilian cartoonist Rafael Grampa has made appearances in various anthologies and even won an Eisner as part of the team doing last year's 5 one-shot and now he's doing his first full-length comic. We spoke with Grampa over two years ago when he was making his first steps into the comic industry, and now his new one-shot Mesmo Delivery is coming out later this month from AdHouse Books.

According to the solicitations, Mesmo Delivery is a story of an ex-boxer turned transporter – but this isn't fast cards and high kicks like Transporter but a man and his big rig making an illicit delivery. For more, we talked with Grampa.

Newsarama: Rafael, thanks for talking to us again. Mesmo Delivery stars an ex-boxer named Rufo who's tasked to truck some special cargo without seeing what the cargo actually is. First of all, tell us about Rufo.

Rafael Grampa: Thank you for the opportunity! Rufo is and is not the main character in Mesmo Delivery. I tried to make the readers believe that the story was about him, but he is only one more piece of the puzzle.

After its release at the San Diego Comicon and in Brazil, many people have told me about this exchange of main characters throughout the story and I guess this is one of the things I had planned beforehand and thank God it worked! He doesn't happen to be a link to Sangrecco since he plays an essential role in the story. This is a story about two main characters who keep exchanging roles all the time.

NRAMA: OK, I'm a little confused but that's okay. What does 'Mesmo Delivery' stand for?

RG: In Portuguese, 'mesmo' stands for 'the same' or something that was previously mentioned. There is a sign in every single elevator in Brazil that says: 'Before you take this elevator, be sure that the same is at this floor" .This sentence sounds too awkward in Portuguese and I kept making fun of whom this mysterious "Same" - or Mesmo - could be. When I needed a name for the HQ carrier, the first thing that came to my mind was the mysterious Mesmo. I, then, thought of 'Mesmo Delivery' and liked the name very much, deciding to keep it. But going deep into its meaning, Mesmo Delivery stands for the beginning, my commitment to comics, the start of my trying to develop narrative, script and drawing techniques. I have always had the idea of mixing all my passions with the biggest one which is comic books and I think that Mesmo Delivery is a brief sample of what I am trying to reach and want to do with comics.

NRAMA: OK. I'm a little bit closer to understanding. Rufo is a player in this series, and in the solicits it says he's deep in trouble. How'd he get that way?

RG: Money. Rufo is where money is. His first question after signing up the contract is how much he is going to make. He doesn't care whether or not the container is going to be opened; he wants to know about the cash. That's why he wants to drink milk because it s very cheap. When he is shown some money by a prostitute after a bet in a bar, he doesn't want to know about the trouble he'll be caught up in. It's all about making easy money. I make people see this addiction of his to money in many parts of the story in a subtle way. I didn't want o make it obvious since I didn't want people to see him as a greedy guy. That would make people not see his charisma and it was essential that people supported him. Otherwise, the story wouldn't work.

NRAMA: When we first interviewed you several years back, you said Sam Peckinpah's movie Convoy was a big influence on this book. Can you tell us more about that?

RG: Yes, we talked about that in March 2007, when I had just announced the project. When I was about four years old, I used to live in a carrier. My father was the manager and the trucks were my playground. When I watched Convoy, it fit like a glove. That was the first movie for grownups that I really liked. It kind of guided everything I was playing with at the time. Mesmo Delivery is an honor to this moment of my life in which I was also crazy for The Twilight Zone. I see Convoy as a silly movie today. It's a Sam Peckinpah's movie for all the family. But, on the other hand, this movie made me watch the other Peckinpah's movies which naturally led me to Sergio Leone who influenced me the most by the time I was working on the narrative of Mesmo Delivery.

NRAMA: This book is about truckers – so have you ever ridden or driven a big rig?

RG: Yes, as I told you before truckers are as good characters as pirates. I've never driven a truck which is wonderful for the mankind since I'm very distracted and would probably run over a lot of people. But I hitchhiked for trucks a lot when I was a teenager. I used to have this Christian band and we toured in every single church in the countryside of Rio Grande do Sul, where I was born. Those were good times, and one day I'll tell you something very strange about that time, you'll see.

I've seen a lot of bizarre things on the road. I've heard many stories told by truck drivers which sound more awkward than those told by fishermen. At 18, in one of these trips I saw a man at a bar near the road. His white hair was just like Elvis's haircut and his face was really strange. He was peeling an orange with a huge knife. I never forgot that image and I knew I would use that image for one of my characters sooner or later.

NRAMA: Wow, that's adventure!

RG: [laughs]

NRAMA: So how'd you end up partnering with AdHouse Books to put this out?

Mesmo Delivery, page 5

RG: Fabio Moon told me it would be cool if I printed some pages of Mesmo Delivery and made some sort of presentation, with a synopsis and other things, to hand it in to Chris Pitzer who had talked to him because of 5. That happened at the SDCC in 2007. After the convention, I was emailed by Chris who wanted to publish or distribute Mesmo Delivery in the USA. We spoke about it and he told me he was willing to print it in black and white but my project was colorful. We ended up deciding on his distribution only and I printed everything in Rio de Janeiro at my cost. Chris is a very nice guy – unfortunately, I still haven't met him in person – and we've been talking about doing some things together in the future, maybe an art book.

NRAMA: You mentioned San Diego Comicon. Do you plan attending any conventions or signings to promote this book?

RG: Yes, there will be its release party and signing with me and Ivan Brandon, that made the English Dialogues of Mesmo Delivery, in NYC, on November 14th at the Desert Island, in Brooklyn and I'll be sharing a table with both Becky Cloonan and Ivan Brandon at the Big Apple Convention.

NRAMA: Not to forget comics fans in your home country… Is AdHouse putting his book out in Brazil, or do you have another publisher there?

RG: A publisher located in Rio de Janeiro named Desiderata is releasing Mesmo Delivery in Brazil. People will be able to find Mesmo Delivery in every single bookstore in the country. Sandro Lobo is the editor who has been partnering with me since the beginning of this work and he's been one of the best editors in Brazil for at least three years. He is probably the person who has most influenced this new demand for better comic books material in Brazil. With the help of Desiderata, I've been promoting Mesmo Delivery all over Brazil which is occupying most of my time. Having won the Eisner Award for 5, the independent comic I created together with Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon has really helped in promoting Mesmo Delivery here, since we were the first Brazilians to win this award and this fact has been calling the attention of the Brazilian press. Also, this has created much expectation on the release of Mesmo Delivery which can be a little complicated. But all the feedback I've been receiving about Mesmo Delivery is positive and amazing. I didn't expected anything like this.

NRAMA: Your first comics work as a 4 page short in the Gunned Down Anthology several years back called "The Lao's Family Fish Market". Any plans of re-releasing that or putting it online?

RG: I think Gunned Down won't be released again. But will you believe if I tell you I lost the original files of these four pages? They were all digitalized since I had drawn everything on the computer with the help of a tablet. I lost a full hard drive and these pages were there. If I had them with me, I would have put them online already. I like those characters a lot and odds are that I'll work on them for some sort of series in the future.

NRAMA: Last I heard, you spend your days (and some nights) as art director and concept design for a huge motion graphics studio called Lobo. How does your work there influence your personal work on Mesmo Delivery?

RG: I resigned from this motion graphics studio in May 2007 in order to focus on more personal projects including Mesmo Delivery.

NRAMA: Wow I'm so out of date.

RG: [laughs] That's okay.

Having worked as a designer for such a long time is an experience I decided to clearly express in each page of Mesmo Delivery. Besides playing with many graphic elements spread in all pages, I have all this preoccupation with the frames, symmetries, coloring and the use of black due to this experience I had working as an art director. I think the way I design a page is similar to the way a poster is made. Despite working with other things, I am more and more focused on working with comic books only. I've just drawn a short story for Hellblazer written by Brian Azzarello for its 250th issue which was very cool to do. Azz is the man!

NRAMA: Yes, yes he is. You working on anything else?

RG: Yes! Now, I've been working on my new project, a 200 page graphic novel called Furry Water. I came up with the story and asked Daniel Pellizzari, a young and talented Brazilian writer, to develop the series with me. I am very pleased and surprised by what we've done so far and I hope people feel the same way. I'm vey proud of and excited about this project and we still don't know whether it is going to be published independently or by our looking for some publisher there in the USA. We intend to have it released next year.

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